Tag Archive for 'John F. Kennedy'

John F. Kennedy and Executive Order 11063

On November 20, 1962—only fifty years ago today—President John F. Kennedy signed into law Executive Order 11063, prohibiting segregation in the sale, leasing, or rental of federally owned or operated properties, as well as those provided with federal funds.

Arguing that excluding individuals because of their race, color, creed, or national origin was “unfair, unjust, and inconsistent with the public policy of the United States,” Kennedy stated that it was the duty of the executive branch of the federal government to ensure that laws were fairly administered. The order read:

I hereby direct all departments and agencies in the executive branch of the Federal Government, insofar as their functions relate to the provision, rehabilitation, or operation of housing and related facilities, to take all action necessary and appropriate to prevent discrimination because of race, color, creed, or national origin.

Furthermore, Kennedy directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other executive agencies to help eradicate discriminatory practices through litigation and other means. He established a President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity in Housing charged with enforcement. (To listen to a tape of a 1963 meeting of this committee, check out this link from the JFK Library.)

The portions of the order that established and delineated the powers of the Committee were amended in 1980 under Executive Order 12259, which placed authority under the leadership of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and were again amended in 1994 through Executive Order 12892.

Six years after Executive Order 11063, the spirit of the order would be furthered through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which included fair housing legislation and significantly expanded on previous legislation, marking a huge step in eliminating discrimination in one of the most basic elements of life: finding a home. Later housing policy addressed other issues such as accessibility and affordability.

To learn more about the struggle against housing discrimination, check out John M. Goering’s edited volume, Housing Desegregation and Federal Policy, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

For summaries of—and links to—fair housing laws and executive orders, check out this page from HUD’s web site.

For summaries of other discrimination-related executive orders, click here.

To learn more about Kennedy, check out Richard Reeves’ President Kennedy: Profile of Power (Simon & Schuster 1994).

On This Day: Arrests in Atlanta

On October 19, 1960—52 years ago today—Martin Luther King, Jr., and dozens of other individuals were arrested during a sit-in protest at Rich’s lunch counter in Atlanta, Georgia.

More than eight months after four African American college students launched the student sit-in movement at the F.W. Woolworth Co. lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, protests were underway in numerous cities across the county. The movement had already achieved some success, furthered by the organization of a new group: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In March, San Antonio had become the first major Southern city to integrate its lunch counters, by April Galveston had become the second city in Texas to integrate its lunch counters, and by June six more cities across the nation had followed suit. The students in Atlanta sought to continue this success.

Although he did not lead this demonstration, King participated in it as he did in other sit-in demonstrations.  (He had previously urged college students to “fill up the jails of the South … to arouse the dozing conscience of the nation.”) On October 19, 52 protesters were arrested for violating legislation from 1960 which allowed individuals to be charged with a misdemeanor if they refused to leave private property when asked.

Charges against sixteen of the activists were dismissed by October 20, but 35 protesters remained in jail. King vowed to remain in the cell for a year rather than make bond.

Ultimately, the 35 jailed protesters were released on bond. However, unrelatedly, King had been given a 12-month probationary sentence on a charge of driving without a valid Georgia license (based on an “anti-trespass” law enacted to curb lunch counter sit-ins). Officials used this violation to hold him in jail, and King was sentenced to four months in a Georgia public works camp.

This steep sentence for an arguably frivolous charge was met with shock and anger by the NAACP, civil rights activists, the American populace. NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins stated “This incident and the picketing and the protest and other demonstrations are merely evidence of a problem to which the state of Georgia will have to address itself, whether it wants to or not.”

Fortunately, King did not remain incarcerated for long. His attorneys quickly filed an appeal. Meanwhile, Senator John F. Kennedy, then a presidential candidate, expressed his support to King’s wife, and his brother, Robert Kennedy, convinced a judge to grant bond. King was released on October 27, two days after he was sentenced and one day after he arrived at the Georgia State Prison.

The Kennedys’ efforts to free King convinced many African Americans to vote for the Democratic candidate in the national presidential election less than two weeks after King’s release, which Kennedy won. Click here to read a news article from the Associated Press, in which King thanks Kennedy.

Over the next eight years, before he was assassinated, King continued his fight for civil rights and equality, through sit-in protests, mass marches, writings and speeches, and more. Last October, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial was dedicated (click here to see pictures from the dedication ceremony). With the construction of the memorial, King became the first African American of the many American officials honored on the National Mall in Washington D.C. To learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr., check out this blog post.

Activists continued sit-in protests across the country. Their work, in tandem with other civil rights protests such as the freedom rides, eventually led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination in public spaces. (Click here to see a photograph of King at the Act’s signing.)

For a comprehensive list of early sit-ins, click here. Time magazine provides a brief photographic history of the sit-in movement here, including a photograph of the sit-in at Rich’s.

To learn more about sit-ins and other student-dominated civil rights protests, check out Wesley Hogan’s Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America (UNC Press 2007).

For a firsthand account by a sit-in protester from Tennessee, check out Merrill Proudfoot’s Diary of a Sit-In, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

In their illustrated children’s book, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, Andrea and Brian Pinkney celebrate the Greensboro Sit-In and the movement to which it contributed.

Executive Order 11246 and Affirmative Action

On September 24, 1965—47 years ago today—President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination and requiring contractors to take affirmative action.

The fight for equal employment opportunity had been ongoing. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, banning discrimination in defense industries and creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 through Executive Order 10479 created a committee to monitor compliance with equal employment opportunity programs. Then, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 required government contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”

Now, years later, Executive Order 11246 broadened this order, prohibiting employment discrimination on four grounds: race, color, religion, and national origin. (Two years later, President Johnson would add sex to this list.)

The Order states, in part:

The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

It included provisions for multiple areas, such as employment, upgrading, demotion, transfer, recruitment, compensation, and more. The Order required government contractors to “take affirmative action” toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and employment.

News articles published soon after the signing described Johnson’s efforts as a revamping of civil rights programs.

Today, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) within the U.S. Department of Labor ensures that government contractors comply with these provisions. (To learn more about how this works, check out the Department of Labor’s website.)

For more information, check out this page from the Department of Labor. To read the full text, click here or click here.

For a comprehensive list of related laws, check out this page from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To learn more about the history of affirmative action, check out this page from UC Irvine’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. Detailed studies can be found in J. Edward Kellough’s Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice (Georgetown University Press 2006) and Terry H. Anderson’s The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action (Oxford University Press 2005).

Affirmative action—not only in employment but also in school acceptances and other such arenas—is still debated today. For a discussion of the affirmative action debate, check out Faye Crosby and Cheryl VanDeVeer’s edited volume Sex, Race, and Merit: Debating Affirmative Action in Education and Employment (University of Michigan Press 2000).

To learn more about President Johnson, check out Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (Knopf 2012).

To learn about President Johnson’s relationship with the civil rights movement, check out David Carter’s The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson Administration, 1965-1968 (UNC Press 2009).

49 Years Ago: Executive Order 11118 and Birmingham’s Integration

On September 10, 1963—49 years ago today—the Birmingham City Schools were integrated after President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11118, ordering federal assistance in removing “unlawful obstructions of justice in the State of Alabama.”

Nine years after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education struck down segregation in public schools, many areas of the South still resisted integration, forcing the federal government to take action. In Birmingham, federal intervention proved particularly necessary.

Birmingham was no stranger to the civil rights movement. Four months earlier, the Birmingham Campaign had ended in victory after local officials agreed to desegregate downtown stores and release jailed demonstrators. Schoolchildren had taken an active part in the movement, marching in the Children’s Crusade.

But despite the success of the Birmingham Campaign in integrating certain facilities, the city schools were still segregated. The Fifth Circuit Court in mid-1963, deciding that the Board of Education had operated a race-based segregated school system, ordered the School Board to submit a desegregation plan by August 19, 1963—a plan which came to be known as the “Freedom of Choice Plan.” Under the plan, approved immediately by a district court judge, students were supposed to choose which school to attend.

The new plan did not end the desegregation controversy. Violence broke out in the tense atmosphere as white supremacists agitated against integration. Alabama Governor George Wallace, an ardent segregationist, vowed to block integration and swiftly shut down several schools that had been slated for integration, citing the threat of violence.

After Wallace attempted to use the Alabama National Guard to block integration, President Kennedy federalized more than 200 of these Guardsmen, finally putting a stop to Wallace’s maneuvers and allowing African American students to enter previously all-white city schools.

Despite threats and demonstrations, the first day of integrated education went fairly smoothly; the Associated Press on September 11 reported no serious incidents of in-school violence that day. National Guardsmen stood by to break up any potential violence. That said, it was a tense atmosphere, with segregationists demonstrating with signs and confederate flags.

To read the full text of the Executive Order, check out this page from the American Presidency Project.

For more on Birmingham’s significance in the civil rights struggle, check out Glenn Eskew’s But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle (UNC Press 1997) and Horace Huntley and John W. McKerley’s edited oral history volume Foot Soldiers for Democracy: The Men, Women, and Children of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement (University of Illinois Press 2009).

To learn more about George Wallace, check out Dan Carter’s The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism and the Transformation of American Politics (Louisiana State University Press 2000).

Three months before the Birmingham City Schools were integrated, George Wallace had also tried to block the desegregation of another school: the University of Alabama. To learn more, read this post from the LCRM blog and check out E. Culpepper Clark’s The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama (Oxford University Press 1995).